It’s basically common knowledge that wearing sunscreen every day helps keep your skin looking young, guards against sunburn, and reduces the risk of skin cancer. Thus, many of us are diligent about applying sunscreen to our faces and bodies — but we often overlook our lips. “It’s crucial to protect your lips from harmful ultraviolet rays just as you do the rest of your skin,” says board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Dr. Susan Bard. The skin on our lips is particularly sensitive, she notes, and like the skin elsewhere on our bodies, it’s susceptible to skin cancer and sun damage, making a dedicated lip balm with SPF essential for anyone concerned about sun protection.
The good news: protecting your lips from the sun is pretty straightforward. You don’t need to haul around a big spray bottle or ask a friend to rub lotion on your back. It’s lip balm — you carry it around in your pocket and apply it with a quick swipe or two. Like sunscreen for your face and body, it’s important to reapply when the balm starts to wear off (“every two hours, or sooner if the lips become wet,” says Dr. Shari Marchbein). You want something that is essentially a “two-in-one” that provides the moisturizing benefits of a quality lip balm, and the UV protection of a good sunscreen. In order to find the best lip balms with SPF, we asked 11 experts — including board-certified dermatologists, plastic surgeons, aestheticians, and makeup artists — for their recommendations.
Best lip balm with SPF for most people
Elta MD’s line of sunscreen is a favorite of dermatologists and Strategist editors alike. We recently named their UV Clear one of the best facial sunscreens, and this broad spectrum SPF 31 lip balm comes just as highly recommended. It’s a favorite among many of the experts we spoke with, getting a stamp of approval from plastic surgeon Dr. Joshua Zuckerman and three board-certified dermatologists: Dr. Erum Ilyas, Dr. Ohara Aivaz, and Marchbein. The doctors all note the high SPF rating as a major plus, especially because “most lip products are in the SPF 15 range,” according to Ilyas, who along with Zuckerman praises this balm’s water-resistance and use of zinc. (Both Ilyas and Zuckerman say they prefer a zinc-based “mineral” sunscreen, which sits on top of skin to physically block sun, to “chemical” sunscreens that are absorbed into skin). It also has ingredients like vitamins C and E, which “help fight free radicals and keep the lips looking smooth and young,” adds Aivaz.
Best moisturizing lip balm with SPF
Supergoop! is another skin-care line we often find ourselves recommending, especially when it comes to sunscreen. Like the Elta MD, this has a high SPF 30 rating. Celebrity aesthetician Joshua Ross of Los Angeles’ SkinLab appreciates that it uses moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, which gives it a slightly less waxy consistency in comparison with other lip balms. “It goes on soft and absorbs quickly, so it’s not tacky,” he says, adding that he loves the “fresh feeling” of the mint flavor. Leila Aalam, aesthetician and founder of Beuti Skincare, says the shea butter gives it a long-lasting “silky texture.” It also has a “glossy finish,” she adds, which might put some people off, but it’s one of her favorite features. (She recommends layering the lip balm over lipstick so you get the extra sun protection and gloss.)
Best natural lip balm with SPF
Another lip balm from Supergoop!, this one with more of a matte finish. It’s a waxier formula, so it should stay put longer on your lips, and you won’t need to reapply it as frequently. Maria Licari, makeup artist at Warren Tricomi Salons, says this should last for a long time — “a full day of skiing or swimming,” she says. Licari advises clients to go as “natural” as possible with their lip balms because “we sometimes [unintentionally] consume these lip balms when we eat, drink, speak, or lick our lips.” And Supergoop!’s natural formula, with easy-to-pronounce ingredients like beeswax and grapeseed oil, certainly fits that bill.
Best lip balm with SPF for sensitive skin
For people with sensitive skin, it can be hard to find an SPF lip balm that doesn’t include potentially irritating additives. Ilyas recommends this Vanicream lip protectant for anyone prone to irritation because it sports SPF 30 protection and “avoids the preservatives that can cause issues.” Additionally, Ilyas notes that it’s gluten-free. “Using a lip product with gluten can be a big issue if you have gluten sensitivities,” she explains. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rhonda Klein, of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut, also suggests this to patients with sensitive skin.
Best tinted lip balm with SPF
Machbein says Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment is basically a SPF 15 lip balm that “doubles as lipstick.” That’s why it’s a nice choice if you want the look of lipstick without sacrificing sun protection. Aesthetician Elena Duque, owner of BodyBrite Spa in Bayside, New York, likes Fresh’s Sugar lip balm as well. “It comes in a variety of sheer shades, including a sport balm that goes on clear,” she says, for those who might not want that extra color.
Best drugstore lip balm with SPF
Alex Beale, founder of outdoor gear review site 99Boulders, is loyal to drugstore standby Carmex SPF 15. He says he’s tried “a number of different brands” over the years, but Carmex is the one that always works best.
Best treatment for sunburned lips
Even the most responsible SPF-wearers slip up sometimes. For those times when lips get a little burnt or irritated, Klein recommends Dr. Dan’s healing lip balm: “It’s formulated with a blend of beeswax, petroleum jelly, mineral oil and one percent hydrocortisone, to comfort and soothe inflammation.”
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